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Build Tolerance to Beat Egg Allergy?

Slow Exposure to Baked Egg Helps Children Overcome Egg Allergy, Study Shows
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 16, 2008 -- One way to help young children overcome egg allergies is to speed up their tolerance by slowly giving them tiny amounts of egg, a new small study shows.

It may seem counterintuitive or downright dangerous to give a child something they are allergic to, so please don't try to recreate this study at home.

It's good to talk to your doctor or specialist about dealing with any type of allergy, especially in very young children.

On to the study, where researchers in Greece looked at 94 children, ranging in age from 1 to 4 years old. The average age was 2.

The Participants

  • 55 of the children studied had been diagnosed with egg allergy.
  • 39 of them had never eaten eggs, but skin tests showed they were sensitized to them.

 

Increasing Baked Egg Intake

Researchers began to give the children tiny bits of a special cake baked with an egg. The children were given more and more of cake baked with one egg over several months.

  • 90% of the children were able to eat the baked egg in the cake and displayed no allergic symptoms. Four children developed hives, two children had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), and one child had a flare-up of eczema.
  • After six months, the 87 children who tolerated the baked egg in cake were challenged with eating a whole egg. All of them tolerated the egg challenge except four children (three developed hives and one had a flare-up of eczema).

Because most children outgrow egg allergies by the time they are of school age, researchers speculate that slowly exposing them to baked egg "might affect the natural course of allergy to egg."

Why baked egg? Researchers say that heated eggs may make allergens, which cause the allergy, less potent.

The study was led by George N. Konstantinou, MD, at the allergy department, Pediatric Hospital, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The researchers say a controlled study (to compare treated children to untreated children) is in the works.

Researchers in this study also point out that even giving a child who is allergic or sensitive that has never eaten eggs "heat-treated" egg can cause severe reactions.

Usually when children are allergic to eggs, they are allergic to the protein found in egg whites, although some children react to the protein in the yolk.

The findings are to be published as a Letter to the Editor in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

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